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Full text of "My country and my people"

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IDEALS    OF    LIFE                        99
from mistress to servants had gone to sleep and Taiyii9 sitting behind the beaded screen, heard the parrot calling the master's name? Was it a mid-autumn day, that memorable mid-autumn day of a certain year, when all the sisters and Paoyu were gathered to write poems and mix in light raillery and bantering laughter over the feast of crabs, in a happiness so perfect that it could hardly last, like the full moon, as the Chinese saying goes? Or was it a pair of innocent newlyweds on their first reunion on a moonlit night, when they sat alone near a pond and prayed to the gods that their married life might last till death, but dark clouds came over the moon, and in the distance they heard a mysterious noise as if a wandering duck had splashed into the water, pursued by a prowling fox, and the young wife shivered and ran up a high fever the next day? Yes, life which is so poignantly beautiful is worth record* ing, down to its lowliest details. It seems nothing of this earthly life can be too material or too vulgar to enter literature. A characteristic of all Chinese novels is the incessant and never-tiring enumeration of the names of dishes served at a family feast or a traveller's supper at an inn, followed frequently by stomach aches and trips to the vacant lot which is the natural man's toilet. So the Chinese novelists write and so the Chinese men and women live, and it is a life too full to be occupied with thoughts of immortality.
This realism and this attached-to-the-earth quality of the Chinese ideal of life has a basis in Confucianism, which, unlike Christianity, is of the earth, earth-born. For Jesus was a romanticist, Confucius a realist; Jesus was a mystic, Confucius a positivist; Jesus was a humanitarian, Confucius a humanist. In these two personalities we see typified the contrast between Hebrew religion and poetry and Chinese realism and common sense. Confucianism, strictly speaking, was not a religion: it had certain feelings toward life and the universe that bordered on the religious feeling, but it was not a religion. There are such great souls in the world who cannot get interested in the life hereafter or in the question of immortality or in the world of spirits in general. That type of philosophy could never satisfy the Germanic races, and certainly not the Hebrews, but it satisfied the Chinese race—in general. We shall see